Ngog throws Bolton a lifeline – and leaves Villa deep in the mire


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The Independent Online

The prospect of relegation for the first time in 25 years looms larger for Aston Villa after a numbing defeat by one of their fellow stragglers. Bolton, trailing to Stephen Warnock's goal just after the hour, responded with two of their own from a Martin Petrov penalty and David Ngog in the three minutes that followed, sparking calls from Villa's supporters for the sacking of manager Alex McLeish.

Villa, who have lost twice as many matches at Villa Park as they have won, now have the worst home record in their illustrious history. They could have opened an eight-point gap over the bottom three but instead lead 18th-placed Bolton by only three points, with the Lancashire side having a game in hand. Bolton, indeed, are now just a point adrift of QPR and Wigan.

This fixture looked destined not to take place at one time, having been postponed from its original Saturday date for TV coverage on a Sunday, then called off because Bolton were involved in the FA Cup that weekend, and cancelled again in the aftermath of Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest. So when the stadium was caught in a biblical deluge shortly before the game, pessimists wondered whether it might again be off.

The rain relented, at least until midway through the first half, and Villa had an early opportunity when Chris Herd rose to meet Charles N'Zogbia's corner kick with 52 seconds played. The Australian's header hit the roof rather than back of the net, but Villa's fragile confidence appeared to be boosted. But for all the promise of Andreas Weimann, and Emile Heskey's willingness to fight for the cause, it was not difficult to see why Villa have averaged barely a goal per game at home this season. They seldom produced the delivery to trouble Bogdan, but they at last found a way through from open play in the 61st minute.

N'Zogbia made it and Warnock scored it, arriving on the edge of the six-yard box to steer home his second goal of the campaign.

Just 60 seconds later, though, Alan Hutton was adjudged to have brought down Mark Davies, allowing Petrov to equalise from the spot. As Bolton pressed again, Chris Eagles' twisting run culminated in a pass which Ngog slid home to leave Villa fans fearing the worst.